Towards a Positive Black Image

By Unathi Kondile

I can, no longer
stomach South Africa’s media.

I can, no longer
click through the News24s.

I can, no longer
buy Sunday newspapers and all papers alike.

I can, no longer
subject myself to the sickness that resides therein.

I can, no longer.

Open any newspaper in this country and you will be confronted with corruption, crime, politicians and hoards of complaints; complaints ranging from the public right up to the editors themselves. Nothing else. And it’s the same thing over and over and over again.

Our news media – from print to broadcast – have become nothing but glorified masturbatoriums that will never impregnate society to do anything beyond the scope of stereotypes.

For how long will we continue to undermine how the media intentionally or unintentionally reinforces the negative stereotypes of this country?

For example:

What is the general image of blacks in South Africa’s media?

– They are largely criminals
– They are largely corrupt
– They are largely incompetent
– They are largely poor
– They are largely needy victims of self
– They are largely more than this list can accommodate

Of course the general image of whites in South Africa’s media is the exact opposite of the above.

Put simply: blacks are inherently inferior in how they are positioned and represented in the media. There’s a limited scope of expression and representation of blacks as humane, on par, equal, in the media. A media with a paucity of positive black models/images that go against pre-1994 stereotypes. The black South African’s image in the media is critical to how they are imagined by an other, and most importantly by themselves.

Take a look at news. If black people are always on the rampage, destroying things, stealing from state coffers and generally represented as social deviants with an inclination towards the worst – how do we suppose the black audience imagines itself? Tell people they are corrupt, corrupt, corrupt and it becomes common to such an extent that corruption doesn’t shock – owing to the extended desensitization to it, afforded to us by the media. Crime too is headed in this direction – we have become used to it, to such an extent that it no longer shocks. Black people dying is also another thing that has become deeply devoid of “another life gone!” – because of the rate at which such news fleet through our eyes and ears.

Just going back to the image of blacks in the media; it would seem that blacks are corrupt dumb savages with no moral GPS, if what our media serves us daily were to be examined closely.

Now, it becomes really easy to fall into the trap of saying, but the media mirrors society. It’s their job. These things are happening out there. Don’t blame the media, blame the people. Black people are like that, they are doing these things, they are corrupt etceteras – the media’s role is to provide accurate verbal, written and/or visual records.

They might teach journalism students the above paragraph in Media schools. But I am prepared to stand alone and say there is something horribly wrong in assuming such roles for journalism. Journalism, today, more than ever requires conscious journalists – not just empty vessels passing on news. It needs people and editors who’s main objectives surpass sales. We need human beings in newsrooms. Not those whinging morbidly depressing churnalists who are led by editors that were probably bullied in primary/high schools and are now venting their frustrations at anyone [read: government] who tries to control them.

Within the context of South Africa we cannot merely push accuracy in news or reflection of day-to-day actions without taking into account the audience’s understanding or what mental representation it stimulates. That would be to be irresponsible. So much so that you will now find people, like mam’ Mamphela Ramphele saying “That’s us! We are like that!” upon reflecting on the black’s image in the media. That, I am afraid, is the height of ignorance. We have somehow come to accept things as they are with scant regard for codes embedded therein, that leave no room for counter-schematic thought – thought that highlights that not all blacks are like that. “That’s us!” is not us. There are deeper areas we do not want to go into with regards to the media’s [mis]representation of the black image in South Africa. It’s very easy to show people news as they are, but seemingly hard to think about how this bodes for the national psyche. Our media convicts us in the confines of our past.

We need a thinking media.
We need a media attuned to the complexities of the societies they serve.
We need a media that is prepared to facilitate racial comity.
We need a media that is less commercially driven.
We need a media that doesn’t serve “imagined communities”, but Real Communities.

It is very easy to report. Very. Even a toddler can report on what they saw. If we limit ourselves to just reporting as we see it, we undermine conceptual and normative complexities of our times.

We need to think carefully about these things and submit ourselves to deeper self-critical awareness in our thinking. We cannot bumble about consuming information without understanding the side effects.

Taking the News pill, daily, comes with side effects that are not written on its packaging. No newspaper or broadcaster warns you that they are going to desensitize you or reinforce stereotypes in your head. None of them do.

And that’s the problem. We are not thinking on that level – on the level of images of one another that we have of one another in one another’s minds. Who reinforces and provides a steady stream of those images?

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Ubuhlanga beeDyunivesithi


Ndikhe ndathi tshe isibhalwana esimalunga neengxoxo ze –“Admissions Policy” yalapha kwiDyunivesithi yaseKapa. Umongo wesisibhalo ibikukumema abafundi, abaqeshwa kunye nabakwisidlangalala ukuba bathathe inxaxheba ekutshintsheni indlela le Dyunivesithi ingenisa ngayo abafundi abasuka kumasapho awawephantsi kwengcinezelo yocalu-calulo.

Sithetha nje umntwana omnyama uyakwazi ukungena eUCT ngamanqaku asezantsi kunawomntwana omhlophe, okanye owangaphesheya kolwandle. Lento ke ikwasiso nesilungiselelo sabo bathe bangcamla imfundo yezinga eliphantsi kwizikolo zaselokishini nasezilalini, kodwa benempawo zobukrelekrele. Kunjalo nje, mna andiboni ngxaki kolundlela-ngeniso.
Ngoba akukho bulingani-manani bobuhlanga kuleDyunivesithi. Uninzi labantwana abanyama, baseMzants’ Afrika, abakwazi ukungena ngenxa yokufumana imfundo engacacanga kwizikolo ezazidalelwe ukuba zenze njalo – zinike umntwana omnyama imfundo engacacanga. ‘de kulungiswe ezozikolo kwaye nemfundiso yazo ibekumgangatho olingana noweeModel C andiboni ukuba singazitshintsha njani iindlela zongeniso kuleDyunivesithi. Singxamele phi mhlawumbi? Ubulingani singekabufumani?

Bambi bathile bathi, “kodwa bakhona abantwana abamnyama abafunda kwezizikolo zamabhulu okanye izikolo zobuModel C. Bona bangabalingani nje!” Kulapho ke mna ndinokuthi endaweni yokujonga uhlanga lomfundi ofuna indawo kwiDyunivesithi, kunganjani ke ukuba singakhe sisebenzise iingingqi namahlelo ezizikolo abaphuma kuzo ababafundi? Endaweni yokuthi “umnyama, uzakungena lula!” kutheni singaqwalaseli mhlawumbi ukuba “usuka eTranskei okanye kwiilali zakwaZulu Natala okanye ebugxwayibeni baseLimpopo njalo-njalo – ngoko wena ungakwazi ukungena ngamanqaku asezantsi kunawabanye!”?

Ay’pheli apho ke – ngoba asakungena loomfundi umnyama, unamanqaku aphantsi, ingaba yona iDyunivesithi le imenzela malungiselelo mani ukuze akwazi ukufikelela kwizinga labo bebefunda kwizikolo eziphucukileyo? Yheke! Ayibenzeli nto! Tu! Suke kuthethwe ngeenqubo zeeExtended Degrees nton’ nton, apho umfundi ezibona ethatha iminyaka emibini ukwenza isifundo ekumel’ba sithatha unyaka omnye qha. Osogqiba kothukwe xa engaphumeleli. 

Ingaba iDyunivesithi ithatha manyathelo athini okuqinisekisa ukuba lomfundi, umnyama, uziva emnkelekile? Ngoba maxesha-maninzi ingxaki ayizozifundo ezohlula umfundi waselokishini okanye ezilalini xa eseDyunivesithi. Ixesha elininzi into eyohlula umfundi omnyama yingxaki yobuntu beeDyunivesithi – ubuntu beDyunivesithi bumhlophe kuqala, abukhathali, umntu uzimela ngenkqayana yakhe elangeni, njalo-njalo – andithi ke umntwana omyama ufuna ukukokoswa, abanjwe isandla kodwa ndizama ukuthi olutshintsho lwendlela yokuphila nokuthethathethisana nabantu abadala ngongathi ngabalingani nokunqaba kwezinto ezifana nembheko nezimilo zakha ekubeni umntwana omnyama azive elilolo okanye indwendwe elingamnkelekanga. Nditsho neelwimi zokufundisa – isiNgesi esi sikhe sithande ukuba yenye nje ingxaki kubo ngoba kaloku wofika iiDyunivesithi ziqesha abantu baphesheya kwamalwandle abakhumsha ngeendlela ezingaqhelekanga. Ufikise ukubana umfundi omnyama uyayazi lento kuthethwa ngayo kodwa akazithembanga ngokwaneleyo ukuba abuze imibuzo okanye asabelisise xa ebhidwa sesisiNgesi. Ingaba na iDyunivesithi le yenza malungiselelo mani ukuba ilungise ezizinto?

Phamb’ kokuba sithethe ngokutshintsha ii-“Admissions Policy” zeDyunivesithi yaseKapa, kunganjani ukuba siqale sithethe ngalemiba ndiyiphawule apha?

Kwaye kwalento yokugibisela ezingxoxo zimalunga nongeniso kwabafundi kwiDyunivesithi, esidlangalaleni ndiyibona iyingxaki.

Ngubani isidlangalala?

Kwaye ngoobani abazakukwazi ukuthatha inxaxheba kwezingxoxo, kwesisidlangalala? Ngababantu bafikelela kumacing’omoya (i-internet) nabantu abafunda amaphepha-ndaba – uninzi lawo lomaphepha abhalelwa abantu abamhlophe ngesiNgesi sabo. Lilonke ke xa sithetha ngesidlangalala kulomba wongeniso kwiDyunivesithi, sithetha ngesidlangalala esimhlophe. Uninzi lwezimvo kulomba wongeniso zizakusuka kubantu abamhlophe, kubantu abahleli bengayixhasi yonke lento yokulungisa izivubeko zamandulo. Abantu abakhala ngoo-“get over the past already!” qho xa kuthethwa ngemiba edibene nobuhlanga.

Ingaba ke iUCT iwusa esidlangalaleni lomba ngeenjongo zokuba esisidlangalala (ebesenditshilo ukuba luninzi lumhlophe) luzakuyiguqula yonke lento? Kubuyelwe kundlela-ndala olungiselela abo bafunde kwizikolo eziphucukileyo kuphela? Yingxaki leyo. Kwaye iyakhathaza into yokuba le-“Admissions Policy” ingasiwa nakwiilali, emaholweni asekuhlaleni nasezilokishini – izakuphelela kwii”Online submissions” nakwabo bathe bathenga lamaphepha-ndaba athetha nohlanga olunye kuphela.

Ingaba iUCT yenza ngabom’ xa isenza kanje? Ingaba mhlawumbi yona kuqala ifuna ukutshintsha ezindlela zongeniso? Zibuyele kundlela-ndala olungiselela abamhlophe kuqala?

Ndicinga njalo.

The Politics of Bread

On the week of 21 February 2012 we embarked on a cyber campaign – in which we got young professionals within our networks to email the following email to the Premier of the Eastern Cape as well as the office of the minister of basic education.

Over a hundred (or more) emails were sent. The gist of the emails was concern over the  poor state of education administration and teaching in the Eastern Cape. It was a direct call to the Premier, Noxolo Kiviet, to take up more action in the fight for a better education for black children in the province, as well as fully implement a Section 100 intervention. The email also made a light plea for a probe into how the department pays R25 (in some schools) for a loaf of brown bread as part of their school feeding scheme. Email concluded by pledging support for the premier and department of basic education.

In sending these emails we didn’t anticipate that all would be attended to and that perhaps a general response for one of two might be forthcoming. However, no response has been forthcoming from the Premier’s office. There were however a few responses from the department of basic education, along these lines:

From: Department of Basic Education
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2012 10:47:40 +0200
To: Us
Cc: Department of Education senior members

Subject: Your enquiry to the office of the Premier -Eastern Cape

Dear Sir/Madame

Your enquiry to the office of the Premier and MEC for Education in Eastern Cape refers. The National Department of Basic Education received your enquiry from the office of the Minister and wish to further investigate the report on the price of bread at R25 in the school nutrition programme.

Kindly provide us with more information to do in-depth investigations with regards to:

1.       Names of schools affected

2.       The District/s

3.       The name of the service provider/s or supplier of bread

Should you have additional and detailed information at your disposal, please do not hesitate to communicate this to us. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.  We will make an effort to investigate and give a response on the matter.  

You may contact … at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards
National School Nutrition Programme (part of Department of Basic Education)

Straight after this response we got another email from another official with the subject line reading: “ALLEGED PRICE OF BREAD IN THE EC PROVINCE” In caps, yes. This next email promised that the NSNP (National School Nutrition Programme) Directorate in the Department of Basic Education is prepared to do a thorough investigation on the alleged conduct where we allude to the fact that there are instances where schools pay as much as R25 for a loaf of bread. However, for this Directorate to properly and speedily investigate they will need at least the name(s) of school(s) where this practice is taking place.

And in the name of politics there had to be some denialism thrown in there, when we were told a meeting was held with the Provincial office of the NSNP and this office did not know anything of the sort (bread pricing). Thereafter we were asked to provide details.

Now. Going back to the initial email sent out by various young professionals voicing their own concerns – it appears the only subject worth responding to was that of bread pricing? Bread politics? Fair enough. We are reasonable people. So we write back thanking the department for its prompt response, provide a link to the Minister of Finance’s budget speech which actually highlighted this bread pricing matter, here. Thereafter we tried to tow the subject back to our main concerns – the rot of education in the department, particularly in the Eastern Cape. We begged that something be done about this and not only reduce this to the politics of bread. Response came in the next day:

From: Department of Basic Education
Date: Wed, 29 Feb 2012 11:19:30 +0200
To: Us
Cc: Department of Basic Education

Subject: RE: ALLEGED PRICE OF BREAD IN THE EC PROVINCE

[Greetings]

Firstly, let me start by saying [the department official], who made the inquiry about the “price of bread” [in first response to us], is not an official from the Office of the Premier in the Province of the Eastern Cape, but is one of the officials responsible for the management / coordination the National School Nutrition Programme in the Department of Basic Education.  His interest on the “price of bread” emanates from his line function duties, and was not an attempt to trivialise the important and real issues you have raised in your e-mail.

Secondly, we were quite aware of Minister Gordhan’s statement in 2009 as well as the reality on the ground at that time. The high pricing of bread at that time was not only a phenomenon which only affected the Province of the Eastern Cape, but was more pronounced in that province. 

The Department of Education did act on these allegations. The current model of decentralising the National School Nutrition Programme to deserving schools, in place of the old procurement model, was an attempt to address gross management and administrative anomalies related to the National School Nutrition Programme.

Thirdly, while we recognise that your e-mail (and those of many of your colleagues) was forwarded to the executive authorities in the Province of theEastern Cape. Therefore it is fair to expect a response from theEastern Cape executive authorities. 

Be that as it may, the Department of Basic Education still has a vested interest in normalising and stabilising the Eastern Cape Education Department.  Hence [department official] made the inquiry on the “price of bread” because we thought the old habits which dogged the National School Nutrition Programme before, were coming back to haunt us.

We applaud members of the communities in theEastern Cape, like yourselves, who have actively responded to the challenge posed by the Secretariat of the ANC Alliance Partners that parents and communities must play an active role in the education of the children of theEastern Cape.

If [department official’s] inquiry was read as trivialising the issues you had raised in your e-mail, we wish to extend our sincerest apologies.

Kind regards 

Chief Director: Planning Oversight & Delivery Unit
Department of Basic Education

So once again we find ourselves discussing bread. No clear resolutions or at the least promises to step up efforts from within the department. Nonetheless we appreciate the time taken to respond. However we are still awaiting a response from the Premier’s office. What is the office of the Premier doing about the education crisis in the Eastern Cape? And in what ways would it like us, concerned citizens, to assist? We do not in the least bit see ourselves as some form of opposition coalition, but rather we are here to assist government, particulary the department of education. This is not a war. We await a response and will be sending out reminder emails to the Premier’s office…

If you would like to take part in the next round of this cyber campaign, send an email to imfundo.easterncape@gmail.com